Another day, and it has yet to rain! The sun was out in full force, and even though I’m a little sunburned, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Venice is one of the most unique and beautiful cities in the world, and I loved seeing it.
With 1,200 natural canals and 456 bridges, Venice is a compilation of 120 tiny islands. When the city was originally built, the only way to get to Venice was by boat. All buildings are national monuments because after 1500, there was no more space for new properties. Venetians were merchants, so it was common for delivery boats to come in and out of the area. Therefore, canals were the most important streets. As seen in my photographs, the homes also had garages facing the canals so that trade could be done out of the merchants’ properties.
Another curious thing about the layout of the city is the courtyards that served as centers for individual industries. For example, the one that we visited was previously a group of bakeries; however, today the buildings are apartments. In combination with the canals and city layout, Venice’s simple design was built to be a center for mercantile business.
Venice was originally used by the Austrian Empire to connect Vienna and Milan. Merchants like Marco Polo went through Venice on their way to big epicenters of trade, like China. Since they would be gone for years at a time doing trade, Venetians invented the insurance system to protect their money while they were away.
Previously, the residents of Venice were the most powerful bankers and richest merchants. While the cost of living is still expensive, many people have moved out of the city for other areas of Italy. This is because everyday life is difficult. Homes, like Verona, are historic and require preservation. Also, the public transportation through the canals is very slow, and it is difficult to walk everywhere on foot. Because merchants are not around anymore, most residents work in Venice’s main industry: tourism. For example, our tour guide lives in Venice with her family.
The unique geographical setting of Venice has effected its movement, lifestyle of residents, and trade in many ways. Until the bridge was modified, the only movement in and out of the city was done by boat. This added a level of complexity to doing business with Venetian merchants. However, once a boat enters the city, movement through canals is easy and boats can dock directly in front of houses. As previously stated, everyday life is difficult for residents due to slow public transportation and having to walk everywhere. In the past, gondolas were used as free, public transport; however, this has changed and water taxis are now used. Last, trade has been vital to Venice as it was an important area for both Italy and the world.
After our walking tour, we took a gondola ride, and it was honestly one of the most amazing parts of this trip. On the tour, we had been seeing the city from the street view, but on the gondola, we saw it in a new perspective. Instead of going over bridges, we were going under them. It made me think more about the way of life for merchants in Venice and how they conducted business in a city made up of tiny islands.
During free time, I visited a small shop and talked with the storeowner. She was from Spain, but now lives and works in Venice. Being from another country, she was once a foreigner to the city, so she understands the difficulty of adjusting to a new culture. Therefore, I felt as though she was nicer to us than other storeowners who simply see Americans as moneymakers. Even though she did not speak English well, she worked with us to help facilitate conversation. She really liked it when we tried to speak Italian to her. Generally, Italians like it when you try their language. Most can speak English, but they still like to see us try. Throughout this trip, I have tried to speak Italian at restaurants and stores for this reason. People are nicer when they see that you are putting in an effort. The stereotype of Americans is that they are ignorant, so it is important to try to prove this wrong. Putting in the extra effort to learn about Italian culture and language has made my trip much better. For example, at dinner in Milan, the server gave us free appetizers for attempting to speak Italian, and on the streets, people are more willing to help you!
Italy has continued to surprise me, and today was no exception. Venice was everything I expected and more! I am excited to see what the rest of the week brings in Verona and Milan. Goodnight!